by Andrew Bostom, M.D., M.S., and Michelle Cretella, M.D.
Within 10 days of the 11/2/21 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) interim recommendation for use of Pfizer’s covid-19 mRNA vaccine in children aged 5-11 years old, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha claimed in an 11/11/21 Washington Post oped.
- “If today’s misinformation, politicization and anti-vaccine sentiment existed in the United States in the 1950s, would the polio vaccine have received the same level of uptake?”
Hard data on childhood polio versus covid-19 disease severity, and direct juxtaposition of the polio and covid-19 vaccine trials, reveals a very different reality.
A 1957 JAMA publication analyzed polio mortality between 1915 and 1954 in U.S. children aged up to 14 years old, prior to mass polio vaccination efforts. Despite a steady decline due to the expanding development of natural immunity, the average polio death rate among these children, including the major outbreaks, was an alarming 5.7%. Rhode Island, through October 31st in 1953, alone, recorded 289 clinical pediatric polio cases, with 15 deaths, a 5.2% fatality rate.
These data stand in stark contrast to the near zero childhood covid-19 mortality, overall, and perhaps literally zero, among children free of chronic comorbidity. Rhode Island has had zero primary cause pediatric covid-19 deaths, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, per its recording system, maintains, “In states reporting, 0.00%-0.03% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death.” An elegant study from a national database in Germany reported concordant findings, noting,
- “The lowest risk was observed in children aged 5-11 without comorbidities. In this group, the ICU admission rate was 0.2 per 10,000 (2 per 100,000) and case fatality could not be calculated, due to an absence of cases”
- For healthy kids, the risk of death is 3 per 1,000,000 with no deaths reported in kids older than 5.
- Kids 5 to 11 have a risk of going to the ICU of 2 in 100,000; 0 died.
- Among kids who died of COVID-19, 38% were already on palliative/ hospice care.
Juxtaposing the polio and covid-19 pediatric vaccine trials highlights consistent, equally glaring discordances.
The controlled (both placebo and observational controls) 1954 polio vaccine field trial recruited ~1.83 million total children, with ~1.35 million in the paralytic polio analysis. Pfizer’s Covid-19 mRNA vaccine randomized, controlled trial in 5 to 11 year-olds enrolled ~2300.
516 total cases of paralytic polio accumulated in the 1954 polio field trial, and vaccination reduced its incidence by 71.1% and 62.4%, relative to the placebo and observational-control groups, respectively. The Pfizer covid-19 vaccine randomized, placebo-controlled trial in 5 to 11 year-olds recorded zero cases of severe covid-19, despite recruiting ~20% with comorbidities. Covid-19 vaccination did reduce mildly symptomatic, covid-19 by “90.7%,” based on “3 cases in the BNT162b2 group and 16 cases in the placebo group (noting the 2:1 randomization of vaccine: placebo)”. Additionally, “No cases of COVID-19 were observed in either the vaccine group or the placebo group in participants with evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
In summary, the 1954 polio vaccine trial for an order of magnitude more lethal, and crippling childhood disease than covid-19, assessed ~650-fold the number of children evaluated in Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine trial. Polio vaccination in the 1954 trial prevented 374 cases of paralytic polio. Covid-19 vaccination in Pfizer’s trial prevented 13 cases equivalent to self-limited colds. Moreover, notwithstanding overwrought concerns about pediatric “long covid,” a December, 2021 Pediatric Infectious Diseases Journal review of 14 studies of this ostensible syndrome, concluded,
- Evidence for long COVID in children and adolescents is limited, and all studies to date have substantial limitations or do not show a difference between children who had been infected by SARS-CoV-2 and those who were not.
Dr. Jha’s comparison equating pediatric polio and covid-19 vaccination does not pass muster. Informed, dissenting medical opinions leery of mass, indiscriminate childhood covid-19 vaccination campaigns, should not be vilified.
Andrew Bostom, M.D. MS, is an adjunct scholar to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. He is an academic clinical trialist and epidemiologist, who is currently a Research Physician at the Brown University Center For Primary Care and Prevention of Kent-Memorial Hospital in Rhode Island.
Michelle Cretella, M.D., is Executive Director of the American College of Pediatricians. She is a Rhode Islander who practiced pediatrics with a special interest in behavioral health for 15 years.